The highly anticipated debut of the Kansas City Chiefs’ new starting offensive line lasted only 11 snaps in the team’s first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night. But there was still plenty to take away from the two possessions — one with starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the other with backup Chad Henne.
Rookie right guard Trey Smith was one of three offensive linemen who were not only making their Chiefs debut, but also their professional debut: he started between rookie center Creed Humphrey and rookie right tackle Lucas Niang.
These live-game snaps are obviously more valuable than practice snaps. There’s a lot more to learn from them — and speaking to reporters on Monday, Smith shared what he learned about himself on Saturday night.
“That I can actually do it,” he grinned after the team’s training camp practice in St. Joseph. “Just watching the film, I have to finish better — that’s the first thing that stood out to me. I have to execute my assignment and finish better.”
He then elaborated on what he meant — using the words of offensive line coach Andy Heck.
“Finish between my man and the ball carrier,” Smith declared. “Every play, just staying in that position and finishing.”
Smith expressed a lot of self-accountability during his press conference. He clearly wasn’t satisfied with his play — something that isn’t always expressed by first-year players in his position. He has reason to feel good about where he is — but refused to admit it.
“I think I just have to be better at knowing my assignment, executing my assignment and knowing my techniques,” Smith insisted. “Understanding the offensive scheme a little better — I have to do a better job of that.”
Perhaps it’s from the chip on his shoulder from being drafted in the sixth round — but whatever caused it, you can tell the team’s new right guard is as hungry and motivated as they come. He has the mindset of a player who will never be satisfied — no matter how good they become.
“We’re working towards perfection,” Smith emphasized. “Obviously, we’re never going to obtain that — but there’s always something we can do better: getting on our assignments, better techniques... there’s always something we can improve on.”
It’s hard to get much better than the offensive line’s start in the game. On the first play, an inside run by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire went for 10 yards. The Chiefs’ front got an obvious push, which was highlighted by Smith bulldozing a defensive tackle and creating Edwards-Helaire’s running lane. Along with a third-and-short conversion later in the game, the starting line appeared to take control of the trenches.
They’re certainly passionate about their ability to win at the line of scrimmage.
“Working cohesively as a five-man unit, we take pride in moving the people in front of us,” said Smith. “We know we have studs on offense — and it’s our job to give them time and space to allow them to do what they do.”
That unit allowed players like Edwards-Helaire and wide receiver Byron Pringle to make plays in the first exhibition game of 2021.
Head coach Andy Reid said on Monday that as the preseason moves along, the new starters will get more opportunities each week. If Smith steadily improves over the next month, he’ll be more than ready for Week 1 — but it sure seems like he still won’t be satisfied.